Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from the Joint Committee on Mobility for Disabled People (DAT 55)

1. The Joint Committee on Mobility for Disabled People (JCMD), whose aim is “to promote the mobility of disabled people”, was established on 14 December 1961. It is neither a limited company nor a registered charity but an unincorporated umbrella body whose current membership comprises 22 national organisations of, for, or substantially involved with disabled people. There are also six individual members, all with extensive knowledge, experience, and involvement relating to mobility for disabled people.

2. The JCMD provides a forum for the informed discussion and consideration of the problems relating to mobility that are encountered by disabled people, in particular the attitudinal, environmental, technical, financial and legislative restraints that hinder disabled people travelling from place to place as part of daily living. Allied to that, the JCMD makes representations to government and other public bodies to promote action by them which will either assist disabled people to attain greater mobility or protect the degree of mobility they already possess.

3. Because of unforeseen circumstances, our submission to the Select Committee is not as comprehensive as we had intended it to be and we much regret that this is the case.

Is the legislation working? Is it sufficiently comprehensive? How effectively is it enforced

4. As a result of legislation, public transport provision for disabled people has greatly improved over the years but there are still inaccessible buses, trains, planes and taxis. However, there are also considerable problems for disabled people, not only because of those inadequacies, but on account of inaccessible transport termini and infrastructure, eg much of the London underground, and railway stations throughout the country.

5. While the primary legislation has worked and is working, and is probably sufficiently comprehensive, in some circumstances (eg, rail, bus, taxis), its extent and implementation can depend on enabling regulations, and a prime example is in relation to taxis and private hire vehicles where successive governments have failed to bring them into force nationwide. So, while taxis in London are required to be accessible, there is no requirement for that to be the case elsewhere, and provision is reliant on the local licensing authorities choosing whether or not and, if so, to what extent, to make it a requirement in their areas. This has led to wide variations akin to a postcode lottery.

6. The turning circle requirement in the London conditions for taxi licensing, which has been adopted by some other local authorities, has unduly and unreasonably limited the range of accessible taxis, with consequent restrictions on choice for disabled people. No single vehicle is currently capable of satisfactorily catering for every impairment, which is why there needs to be a diverse range of taxis/PHVs, to enable meaningful choice for disabled passengers.

7. The safe transportation of disabled passengers is of vital importance and there are particular issues for those who travel while seated in wheelchairs. Many wheelchair taxi passengers, for instance, are being carried unsafely, either because of the physical features of the vehicle making it impossible for them to be accommodated safely, or because of driver reluctance to position wheelchairs properly due to the effort or difficulty of achieving that.

The accessibility of information

8. We welcome the increasingly wide range of information that is available in accessible formats from transport operators as well as national and local services, and the “real time” information that can be obtained on the internet and via mobile and “smartphones”. On-board audio and visual information is also be important and should be further extended and developed.

Assistance and staff awareness

9. All staff should be given awareness/equality training and for those with customer-facing roles this should be comprehensive and regularly refreshed/updated. Disabled people should be involved in delivering the training.

10. The nature and extent of the assistance provided to disabled people will depend on their needs and circumstances. Staff awareness and attitudes are critical to the delivery of assistance and the arrangements for dealing with assistance requests must be user-friendly, flexible and welcoming.

11. Unfortunately, public attitudes can often be a problem leading to conflicts, and it is essential that staff are not only empowered but required to act when facilities for which disabled people have the sole or priority use are abused by other travellers.

Olympic/Paralympic legacy

12. The resources and the commitment given to transport during the Olympic/Paralympic games showed just how well disability needs could be catered for and, in light of that, it must now be the aim to work towards achieving those standards as the norm.

13. We conclude by welcoming the inquiry by the Committee and repeating our apologies for the incomplete nature of our submission. Nevertheless, we hope it will be taken into account.

January 2013

Prepared 13th September 2013